Author: Rangel, John Paul
Date published: April 1, 2012
Apache 8. Directed by Sande Zeig. Produced by Heather Rae, Dolly Hall, Sande Zeig, and Victoria Westover. Lincoln, NE: Visionmaker Video. Home, $29.95; education, $225.00.
Apache 8 is the story of an all- worn en wildland firefighter crew from the White Mountain Apache Tribe who have been fighting fires in Arizona, including their Native homelands, and throughout the United States for over thirty years. More than one hundred White Mountain Apache women served as wildland firefighters from 1974 to 2005. After 2005 men became part of the Apache d crew. This film presents a glimpse into the lives and challenges of Native firefighters by profiling four women who represent different generations of the Apache d crew. These four women - Cheryl Bones, Ericka Hin ton, Katy Aday, and Nina Quintero - share their experiences, humor, and cultural context of being Native women, firefighters, and members of their White Mountain Apache community. The film uses both archival footage and current interviews, focusing on personal narratives with humor and a tenderness that underscore the hardship and loss, family and community, and pride in being a firefighter from Fort Apache.
Cheryl Bones is shown as a highly respected and tough crew boss who trained and led the Apache d on several fires on and off the reservation. Her heroism was commemorated, as the only woman statue and representative of the Apache d, at the Wildland Firefighters Monument in Boise, Idaho. The film details how Bones faced scrutiny and personal loss while earning respect and praise for her strength and perseverance as she led the all- female fire crew. Katy Aday recounts her childhood on the reservation before leaving for California to live with a Mormon family so she could get an education and help her people. After receiving her high school diploma and entering the service, she returned to her tribe as a Desert Storm veteran and social worker who also sits on the education board and fights fires. Nina Quintero, a longtime member of Apache d, struggles with diabetes but is determined to continue fighting fires and hopes to become a crew boss like her mentor, Cheryl Bones. Ericka Hinton, the youngest of the women, clearly represents the future of female firefighters. While on the Apache 8 she has served with veteran firefighters Bones and Quintero and like them serves as a role model for other Native women. She also became one of the first women on the Apache Hotspot team. Unlike the other women profiled, she fights fires alongside her husband and commented on how it is a sacrifice, since they have to be away from their children for long periods during fire season.
Along with the personal narratives of the four women are commentaries and testimonials by Chairman Ronnie Lupe, Vice -Chairwoman Margaret BahaWalker, and Ramon Riley, cultural resources director of the White Mountain Apache Cultural Center. "They can climb the highest mountain, carry the heaviest burden on their back, and still put out the fire ... as well as any man," says Ronnie Lupe. "We are so proud of them." While primarily about the Apache 8, the film integrates the cultural context of contemporary Apache life as well as the history of the Apache nation. The film also highlights one of the Apache rituals, the Sunrise Dance, which is their puberty rite for young women. Narrative occurs in both Apache and English, accenting the cultural distinctiveness and thriving culture of the White Mountain Apache nation.
Apache 8 is an important depiction of Native women, as it promotes a discussion of gender stereotypes and the capacity for women to show the strength, courage, determination, and leadership that men are usually recognized for. This film does not neglect the qualities that women are typically associated with in order to stress their strength and similarities to their male firefighting counterparts. Rather, the women are shown cooking traditional foods, are openly emotional, and discuss their own ongoing personal struggles that co -exist and are not a detriment to their remarkable courage or ability to be both family/ community member and firefighter. This film is also a contemporary portrayal of the issues affecting the lives of Native peoples. Gender roles, sexual preference, stereotypes, sovereignty, diabetes, violence, and poverty are among the topics discussed through these women's profiles. The ties of family, culture, and community are strongly emphasized throughout the film. The women talk about their devotion to family as well as their desire to protect their homeland and to respond to fires around the country. While most of the women describe their family through familiar heterosexual terms, one of the women is highlighted as having a stable fifteen-year relationship with a woman and raising their children. Diabetes and nutrition have been issues for Native peoples on reservations for several generations due to limited access to healthy foods and traditional diets. Poverty and violence have plagued reservations due to lack of resources and employment. This film aids in bringing awareness of these continuing issues that need acknowledging and addressing.
This film is an affirmation of the pride that these Apache women exhibit and that their nation has for them. Both Chairman Lupe and Vice- Chairwoman Baha- Walker attest to this. It is also noted that the women are recognized as some of the country's most elite firefighters. These women serve as positive role models for Native and ? on -Native alike while bringing attention to and awareness of the White Mountain Apache people, history, and culture.
John Paul Rangel, University of New Mexico